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Madagascar, Population

Madagascar has an ethnically diverse population of 16,473,477 (2002 estimate). The number of inhabitants was growing at an annual rate of 3 percent in 2002. The average population density is 28 persons per sq km (73 per sq mi), with upland areas more densely populated than coastal regions. Life expectancy at birth was 58 years for women and 53 years for men.

Only 30 percent of the population is classified as urban. Antananarivo, the capital, is the largest city, with a population (1993) of 1,052,835. Other important urban centers are Toamasina (127,441), Mahajanga (100,807), Fianarantsoa (99,005), Toliara (1990 estimate, 61,460), and Antsira?ana (54,418).

Major ethnic groups in the interior are the Merina (Hova), who make up about 27 percent of the total population, and the related Betsileo (12 percent). Members of both groups are descended primarily from people who emigrated from Indonesia by 900 ad. Coastal areas are inhabited mainly by peoples of mixed Malayo-Indonesian, black African, and Arab ancestry; among these ethnic groups are the Betsimisaraka (15 percent), Tsimihety (7 percent), Sakalava (6 percent), and Antaisaka (5 percent).

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